Guide of Artena

Artena, near Rome, is a lovely hillside town located on the north-eastern slopes of the Lepini mountains, in the upper valley of the river Sacco, and is the point of intersection of main roads that connect Velletri and Colleferro.

The area around Artena has pre-Roman origins, evidenced by the polygonal (or Cyclopean) walls probably built by the Volsci about six centuries before Christ.

It was destroyed by the Romans in 404 BC and was re-established and developed in the early Middle Ages, with the name of Montefortino, in the form of a fortified castle.

In the VIII-X centuries it was part of the ecclesiastical heritage of the Holy See, which had the obligation to protect, govern and administer its various possessions.

In subsequent centuries, the castle and the territory of Montefortino was the place of numerous bloody feuds among families who took turns controlling the property, in particular the Conti and the Colonna. During these centuries the estate was destroyed several times and the last of these exercises in wanton destruction was the most terrible. On April 23, 1557 Pope Paul IV, arch-enemy of the Colonna, burned and destroyed Montefortino completely. The pope’s forces  also spread salt on the ruins and declared its inhabitants to be “bandits”. The citizens fled up the steep slope of the mountain and built the town as we see it today.

Since the 1600s the town became the property of the Borghese family which enriched it with a palace (seat of the archaeological museum dedicated to Roger Lambrechts), squares, hostels, arches and more. It is today the family home of Princess Nikè Borghese.

By Royal Decree of February 1873 the town changed its name to Artena to make more solid the passage from the old to the new national system.

Artena has Europe’s largest pedestrian Old Town and the special feature is that the urban services to citizens are carried out by donkeys and mules. Otherwise the climb to the top of town requires strong limbs and fitness. Artena is one of the most beautiful hillside towns in Italy and is featured in many postcards and books. Each Christmas on the mountain-side next to the town is a Christmas Tree of coloured lights that can be seen from great distances in the valley, along the highway from Rome, and from the opposite mountain ranges.

In Artena, in 1911, was shot the first Italian feature film entitled ‘The Inferno’ based on the work of Dante.

On the Saturday before the third Sunday of May every year is held the Feast of Our Lady of Grace, the most important festivity of the town and one that has been celebrated since 1731


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